I used to have this obsession with hating fish. I think it came from once witnessing a friend of mine swallow a splinter and almost choking on it – it was terrifying, and I figured fish is just not worth the risk. (On a side note, this does not include salmon, because salmon is perfect.)
Any way, today I decided to get over this fear and create another brilliant dish with Julia Child’s recipe – and that was sole Bonne Femme – good wife or woman – which basically means sole poached in white wine with mushrooms and parsley.
To prepare this dish is actually longer than cooking it, seeing as it takes about 8 minutes in the oven.
For this dish you will need:
Fillets of sole, depending on how many people you are cooking for
About 300 g of mushrooms, minced
A small bunch of flat leaf parsley
Lots of butter
About 1/2 cup of double cream
About 1 tblsp of flour
About 2 cups of dry white wine
First of all, preheat the oven to 180 degrees and slice your sole into thin slices. I used lemon sole, which is a little more flaky than simple sole, but tastes delicious and, well, is available from my local supermarket.
Mince your mushrooms and parsley, and mix together in a bowl with seasoning. Butter your (hob-proof!) baking dish or roasting tray and lay down a bed of your mushroom mixture.
Lay the soles on top of it, dot with butter and add your liquid – this should be about 3/4 of a pint, of which half is white wine and half is water. If it doesn’t cover the sole, add a bit more of either – I used my wine, because you only live once. Hah.
Place your dish onto the hob and heat until the liquid is almost simmering. If your liquid is heated enough, cover your fish with a buttered piece of baking paper – this will keep your fillets moist. Place in the lower half of your oven and cook for 8 minutes.
Your fish is ready if you can pierce it with a fork easily, or if it flakes easily.
Now for the best part: the sauce of course! Strain your fish, pouring your cooking liquids into a sauce pan. If you get bits of mushroom in it, just take them out with a slotted spoon. Reduce by half. This will take longer than you would think, but just when you’re about to Google whether cooking liquids reduce at all, they will. I promise.
Take your liquid off the heat. Season well with salt, pepper and drops of lemon juice if you wish.
Create a paste of about 20 g of butter and 20 g of flour by mashing them together with your hands (or with a fork) and add this to your sauce pan. Whisk, then add 1/2 cup of double cream and mix again. Put back on the heat and boil, adding more cream if necessary. Boil until you get a thick consistency – the usual coat the spoon test should work.
Lay your fillets on a plate, pour over that delicious sauce and a heap of mushrooms, and there you are – delicious and simple sole Bonne Femme.
*UPDATE – IMPORTANT UPDATE!* Shallots! Do not, under any circumstances, forget shallots, finely chopped and lying under your mushroom bed! What is this dish without shallots? At least 2 of them!
Now if you’re lucky enough like I was, you will get a bottle of Chablis for £10 because it’s almost Christmas – and you can have a lovely glass of it with your fish. Also, if you’re a little more hungry, prepare some rice with this dish – it will be perfect.
Bon appétit to you all, and thank you, Julia!